Being a True Diplomat
Being a True Diplomat
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2006.05.03 00:00
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▲ [Photo provided by An Mi-kyoung]An with her Singaporean friend at Daejangguem Studio in Yangju.

   "A true diplomacy" is how An Mi-kyoung (Inha University, 2) describes VANK, a diplomatic mission that informs undistorted history and knowledge of Korea to foreigners. VANK, which stands for Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK), was first established in 1999 as a website that helped people find pen pals abroad. However, as they continued to form close relationship with foreigners they realized that most foreigners not only knew little about Korea, but also had erroneous perceptions about Korea. Since then, VANK started playing the role of both cyber guide and diplomat, and have introduced Korea to foreigners, and formed friendship with them.
   Throughout the last seven years, VANK has found and dealt with over 310 cases that distorted information about Korea. Among them include sending e-mail to National Geographic, CNN, and 68 other international websites, pointing out their mistake of indicating the East Sea as Japanese Sea.
   Students with patriotism and open mindedness are always welcomed to volunteer at VANK. An, who has been working as a cyber diplomat came to realize the importance of people-to-people diplomacy by working at VANK.
   In order to become a cyber diplomat, individuals have to complete a training course. After accomplishing the one-month training of e-mail research assignments, he/she gathers information on Korea, sends a written protest to foreign websites indicating the erroneous information, and tries to make foreign friends.
   An currently keeps contact with many foreign friends, but she regards three of them the most special. She came to know a Singaporean student six months ago, who in turn visited Korea last winter. During his stay, the two went sightseeing and visited numerous traditional places of Korea.
   An also has a friend from Ghana, a country An herself knows little about. "I was very surprised to find out that there are many foreigners from unfamiliar countries who have much interest in Korea. By getting to know them I feel a sense of duty as a Korean." Like most voluntary work at NGOs, working as a member of VANK requires responsibility and patience. "The pleasure and outcome of this voluntary work simply depends on how much you do. By working as a cyber diplomat at VANK, you cannot only learn about the immense diversity of cultures and meet foreign friends but also feel a sense of pride as a Korean in your daily life, something that we live without noticing everyday," adds An.

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